Thursday, November 16, 2006

River's last gig

...will be on Saturday December 2nd 2006, the band has announced.

It's at Walton-on-Thames Methodist Church, Terrace Road, Surrey (south London) at 7.30pm, admission £5.

Like Parchment, River have produced four CDs since 1998, mostly of Sue Mack compositions.

Here's a picture of them in concert in October 2004, Sue Mack closest to camera:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Will there be a reunion?

I understand there are hopes for a reunion of the Christian "Liverpool Scene" of which Parchment was central.

The event has been styled Roundabout 2008 and aims to reunite the people who worked with Roundabout Multimedia. The musicians cited are Trinity Folk, Parchment, Keith Rycroft and Reynard.

Liverpool is to be the European Capital of Culture in 2008. The Roundabout 2008 website doesn't contain much information but is going to be worth keeping an eye on.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


This little-known gospel band from Liverpool released two albums of traditional-sounding English folk in the late 70s, using the influence of English carols to create new music.

Their first album from 1976 Fresh From The Earth had major input from members of the last line-up of Parchment. It was produced by John Pac and Sue McClellan and Pete Yates-Round provided backing vocals.

I had never heard of them although they recorded with the same label, Grapevine, as issued Parchment's last album.

Even more interesting is the identity of the band's mandolin player, Dave Rycroft, presumably related to Keith Rycroft, the Parchment founder member who left following the severance of their contract with Pye Records in about 1974.

Fresh From the Earth contains a version of Golden Game which, therefore, predates Parchment's version on Rehearsal for a Reunion and seems to have more lyrics.

Reynard must have been reasonably well known as they headlined at Kamperland, Holland, in 1978 along with Parchment. They released their second album Green Anthem in 1979. Prior to 1975 they were known as Flight.

Their music is hard to come by but is available at this site.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Folk is not a four letter word

Parchment's Son of God will feature on a new compilation CD, Folk is Not a Four Letter Word 2, to be released on November 20th. This is the second compilation of acid folk by Manchester-based musician Andy Votel, I understand.

Odd the way that song, from the Light Up the Fire album, has gained prominence.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Some time ago I came across a directory of Christian music bands which listed just two under the heading of acid folk, Parchment and Caedmon. I assumed they meant Caedmon's Call, a popular and talented US folk rock band. Pandora certainly include them in our Parchment radio station.

Now it turns out there really was a Caedmon. They are more obscure even than Water into Wine Band. They put out their single studio album in 1978 and then disbanded. It was released a year or two ago on CD by the acid folk label Kissing Spell, who also rereleased Water into Wine Band. There is also a live album. According to Kissing Spell it is perhaps "the greatest folk rock album ever".

The album is a work of art in every sense. 1978 is significant. The band consisted of a group of friends at Edinburgh University who played together for four years before being comfortable enough about their music to put out an album. That is a similar history to Water into Wine Band who were at Cambridge University. There was an album and two more tracks released separately on single.

Listening to it, I heard the influence of Wishbone Ash, the prog rock band of the 70s on the album. But there is also much pure folk and, if there is a theme, it is about the Celtic saints, Columba and Caedmon.

Of course by 1978 there was no market for this music, even amongst the captive Xtian audience, unless you were prepared to hack it around the folk festivals. This was Parchment's last year. So Caedmon should be seen as a project rather than an album or a band, reaching its apogee in a classic but little recognised piece of music. A work of art indeed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Our radio station

Now at last you can listen to the World of Parchment on our own radio station, based on

There's a couple of Parchment tracks and contemporaries such as Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Incredible String Band. There's a great deal of Judee Sill and other versions of great songs such as Pack Up Your Sorrows (the Joan Baez version). There are rarities such as Water into Wine Band and some obscure acid folk bands and modern groups of a similar ilk such as Caedmon's Call. There are influential songwriters such as John Lennon. And there's mandolin and sitar and acoustic guitar but as little blue grass as possible.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Trinity Folk live!

 Some pictures of the Trinity Folk from 1971, showing they were a four-piece band. The linchpin appears to have been John Pac. The first picture is from the Sound Vision in Concert album sleeve from 1971.

The second appears to have been an event, in Liverpool from September 1971.

The caption lists the group members as Pete (guitar, autoharp and mandolin), Sue (guitar),Norman (banjo and guitar) and John (guitar & sitar). So no Keith Ryecroft at this point. Pete and Norman would appear to be the same guys as at Sound Vision but a year later they had been replaced by Keith Rycroft. The puzzle is that the woman looks nothing like Sue McClellan.

 Either the photo has been crudely edited - or Sue McClellan's predecessor was another 'Sue'. Not impossible, but the date suggests the explanation is some crude editing with scissors and pen that went wrong.

Rehearsal's double sleeve

Here's the double sleeve edition of Rehearsal for a Reunion

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rehearsal reunited

Bob Dylan has led me to the discovery that there were two versions of Rehearsal for a Reunion. The album came out originally in a blue double sleeve with a cartoonish depiction of the band on the back. This showed the two guys, at the time John Pac and Pete Yates-Round in a balloon with Sue McCellan on a parachute. This was the one I had originally. The second version was a single sleeve, completely redesigned with new fonts and colours by a second graphics company. The lyrics were on an insert. The only common feature is the photograph, as featured here.

Curiously it is Golden Game which confirms that even the lyrics were typeset for a second time. In the first version the first line is "Keep on Walking Where the Angels Showed", in the second it is "Keep on Walking When the Angels Showed".

Both versions give the hook line of the first verse as "Over the Old Golden Land", changing it later to "Over in the Old Golden Land". However it is clearly sung as 'in' throughout - indicating the flexible nature of the words of this song.

Curious the way the sleeve was redesigned for an album which can't have sold a massive number of copies and wasn't sold in the USA.

* Footnote (March 2007)- Pete Yates-Round explains: "Because of the budget we were entitled to a gatefold and after talking to the designers the sleeve was designed and printed. It didn't turn out how we all imagined it would so due to another pressing of the album it was decided to go to the single one. Incidentally I do not have a copy of the gatefold!"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

When the deal goes down

Bob Dylan's tribute to Parchment? No, that would be far-fetched but quite possibly a tribute to the Incredible String Band.

The hookline of Dyan's hymn-like song, released as a single from Modern Times, comes from the traditional spiritual Golden Game, recorded by Parchment on Rehearsal for a Reunion.

The phrase "When the deal goes down" seems to be specific to the String Band version of the song rather than the original spiritual.

Parchment changed the String Band's words slightly to
"When the deal goes down, I'll rest my crown, Over in the old golden land"

The String Band's version, incorporated into their song Job's Tears : "When the deal goes down, I'll put my crown, Over in the old golden land"

The traditional version: "When the devil goes down, I'll take my crown, Over in the old golden land"

In one of his verses Dylan rhymes the line thus:
The midnight rain follows the train
We all wear the same thorny crown
Soul to soul, our shadows roll
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down

Dylan's song and Golden Game are "end of life" songs, both anticipating eventual reunion. Dylan's lyrics are of course a little more opaque than the original. I've embedded a link to the video on YouTube in the heading.

This is the String Band's version of Golden Game in full:

Keep on walking where the angels showed
(All will be one)
Travelling where the saints have trod
Over in the old golden land
In the golden book of the golden game
The golden angel wrote my name
When the deal goes down I'll put my crown
Over in the old golden land

I won't need to kiss you when we're there
(All will be one)
I won't need to miss you when we're there
Over in the old golden land

We'll understand it better in the sweet bye and bye
You won't need to worry and you won't have to cry
Over in the old golden land

This, I understand, is the original version in full:
In the golden book of the golden game
A golden angel wrote my name
When the devil goes down
I'll take my crown
Over in the old golden land

You won't have to miss me when we're there
-all will be one all will be one
You won't have kisse me when we're there
-over in the old golden land

We'll understand it better in the sweet by and by
-all will be one, all will be one
You won't have to worry and you won't have to cry
-over in the old golden land

There in the land that is brighter than day
-all will be one, all will be one
The father will be waiting across the way
-over in the old golden land

And if you want to hear Parchment's highly-praised acapella version you will have to track down the vinyl. For reasons discussed previously, it's not on Simply...Parchment or any other CD.

I'm going to try embedding Dylan's video here:

They're on Pandora

Good news. now includes two tracks from Parchment - Love is Come Again and Son of God. That's because their library now includes the Under the Silent Tree compilation of 70s acid folk (see earlier blog).

I'm looking forward maybe to hearing some other tracks from the compilation on pandora as I have not got round to getting it yet. Most of the reviews identified the Parchment songs as the highlights of the album so the rest is intriguing.

You can listen to the Parchment songs on pandora simply by entering their names or the name of the band. Both these songs come from the Light Up the Fire album.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Well the growing interest in Shamblejam is creating rarity value.

One vinyl seller now prices it at 149.92 dollars.

Google now lists 90 mentions of it, many of them in groups and blogs over the last twelve months.

For instance has recent mentions praising this album and Light Up the Fire - this on a site which is pretty cynical about the Jesus music scene.

The problem is the Simply Parchment collection is simply not good enough. All four albums were produced as concepts by John Pantry and mixing the tracks up undermines the work of the fourth "member" of the band, John Pantry as producer.

Reputedly the other British Jesus folk band of the period, Water into Wine Band saw the price of their second album Harvesttime reach some 900 dollars on the internet. Somebody then brought it out as a CD, which I have. It is well worth a listen but is not nearly as dynamic as, say, Shamblejam. And where did the name come from? I have never been able to find any clues. It is likely John Pac would tell us if it was reissued.

Thankfully I have Shamblejam on tape so I can listen to it in the car. I do have the vinyl and I'm not selling it. Time for a CD, Kingsway?

Monday, August 28, 2006

British folk

BBC4 have been showing a series called Folk Britannia.

I've only seen one episode about the 60s scene - but that was pretty interesting in terms of Parchment influences

I never thought they should be compared with Steeleye Span or even Fairport, which specialised in using modern instruments to perform traditional songs.

Rather Parchment was one of those bands that used the folk medium as a base for a wider range of music.

The programme identified The Incredible String Band as having pioneered acid folk and that makes sense as Parchment performed Golden Game on Rehearsal for a Reunion. Golden Game is a traditional spiritual but the String Band used their own version of the words - and it was these words that Parchment also used for their highly praised acapella version.

Then on a week or two ago to the Sidmouth Folk Festival for a day as I was in Devon. It was a pleasant enough experience but tended to suggest to me that folk has stultified. It seems to be mainly about recreating the past rather than acting as a vibrant, creative medium in its own right.

I enjoyed watching the Red Square Balalaika and Domra Ensemble, from Devon, performing on the sea front. These are instruments from central Asia and eastern Europe and seem to be part of the mandolin family.


A few months ago I came across and thought I would use it to trace some of the influences on Parchment.

This set me off on a musical journey - exactly as the inventers of hope.

Parchment should be located somewhere in the folk/rock area.

Pandora don't have Parchment yet. They could do - they like to have slightly obscure musicians.

This led me to Sandy Denny, who was originally the mainstay of Fairport Convention before going her own way and dying tragically in the late 70s.

I bought her collected songs CD and enjoyed it. There is a late song called Listen, Listen which relies heavily on the mandolin and may possibly be offering a perspective on the life of Christ. It is about a traveller who has an astonishing impact on the villages he visits. In the song Sandy's voice harmonises amazingly with the surging sound of the mandolin.

I think it is likely to have been written after Parchment emerged and may be a kind of response.

The thing about Parchment is that they were embedded in the folk music scene and in some ways hi-jacked by gospel music. So in way they never gained mainstream folk recognition although they were highly innovative and creative - especially through the production partnership with John Pantry.

As a result of, I'm also enjoying The Innocence Mission who are contemporary American band with Catholic roots.

I've been trying to find a way to create a link to my channel on pandora but am not sure it can be done.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pack Up Your Sorrows

Richard Farina's song was popularised by Judy Collins and Joan Baez in the mid-1960s.

It was one of just two unoriginal songs on the Light Up the Fire album and Parchment (and their producer) demonstrated their ability to make it all their own, finishing with a folk club singalong and the line "We all live in a Yellow Submarine".

I had thought the band must have picked up the song from Baez or Collins, but according to the sleeve notes of the album, they first heard the song in a Liverpool folk club.

The writer of the song was just 29 when he died in 1966 in Carmel, California. More info can be found at

The dobro

According to the sleeve notes of Light Up the Fire, Keith Rycroft possessed one of just two steel dobros in Britain at the time.

A dobro is a Hawaian steel guitar which uses a chamber in the neck to create its distinctive sound. They sell for something approaching £2,000 in Britain today.

Here is a picture of one from the London Resonator Centre which claims to be Britain's only outlet for these instruments.

* Postscript 2012: I'm not convinced there's a chamber in the neck. Maybe there is in Hawaii. I think the resonator is the steel chamber in the body of the guitar. See wikipedia account here.  PF

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tracks not on CD

My vinyl records are currently under in storage while we sell house, up sticks and move - so this list is not necessarily exhaustive.

The following songs do not appear on the Simply...Parchment CD. Clearly a decision was taken not to include all the album tracks - I would hope with a view eventually to rerelease the albums on CD. Part of the reason for non-inclusion may be embarrassing content for Kingsway, which is now very much a mainstream Christian record label.

From Light Up the Fire - Zip Bam Boo (possibly too irreverent but, originally, a favourite track on the album, hook line - zip bam boo, zama lama la boo, you can't keep a good boy down);
from Hollywood Sunset - all tracks included, surprisingly;
Shamblejam - Shine on Me, no obvious reason for exclusion but probably the least of three tracks on this album that typified the band's sound at this time;
Rehearsal for a Reunion - Borders of Belief, certainly the slowest track on this album;
- Golden Game, not their own song but an acapella rendition of a spiritual, specifically praised on the One Way site's review of the band. There was another contemporary, possibly slightly earlier, version by the Incredible String Band, from which this may have been lifted. I have found some alternative lyrics which sound as though they may be the original.

Of the single b-sides:
Working Man, a major omission, originally recorded live in their Trinity Folk incarnation on Sound Vision in Concert and appeared as a studio recording on the Better than Yesterday single. This showed the band writing a classic English folk song;
Rock and Roll part time - not a major loss, a misplaced attempt to record acoustic rock and roll.

From Sound Vision in Concert:
Do you want to laugh - not as sophisticated as their later music but a great folk sing along.
And, of course, Working Man

Sunday, January 22, 2006

It's cool, it's hip, it'

Report in The Observer Sunday January 22nd 2006

"Bluffer's guide to folk

If you're young, listen to Acid folk, twisted folk or folktronica. Bands to watch include Circulus, Tunng and The Eighteenth Day Of May."